Adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change: protecting the conditions of emergence through good governance

Super wicked problems such as global climate change (Levin et al. 2012) and the extensive subsequent changes to the environment, biodiversity and human economies cannot be tackled with the usual disciplinary approaches that have long been the basis for policy making. Problems in social and environmental planning tend to become wicked because their causes are complex and subject to different interpretations according cultural values and beliefs. Consequently there are no objectively definable solutions to wicked problems and disagreement on what might be done to address a problem may be profound. In the case of climate change, the problem is super wicked because of the urgent need for solutions, lack of a central decisionmaking authority, and those responsible for solving the problem are also creating it.

The concept of resilience in complex adaptive social-ecological systems (SES) provides a relatively novel way of thinking about change at all scale levels from the local to the global. It enables people to develop strategies that either enhances the resilience of an existing system, so that it can absorb and recover from disturbance like fire, floods and disease outbreaks, or deliberately transforms the system into a new state that is better able to meet long term human needs. A SES resilience perspective recognizes that change in all biological systems (including all forms of human organization) begin with the very small and grows upwards.

This brief describes resilience concepts and argues that they provide a foundation for the development of adaptation policies based on a relatively simple model of the drivers and feedbacks that define the change process at work in a system. It also makes some suggestions on how national policies might support the growth of resilience and adaptive capacity for coping with climate change.

Read the brief and share your comments below:

2 thoughts on “Adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change: protecting the conditions of emergence through good governance

  1. Bru Pearce

    Quite simply the best hope that humanity has of stabilising our planetary environment. We have known for years that we need to replace and manage nutrients on land and it’s quite obvious that we need to do the same with the oceans. Fertilisation by floating flakes would appear to offer a benign and enormously flexible delivery tool. With the theoretical ability to sequester 10 or more gigatons of carbon per year, this proposal is highly deserving of a massive research and development programme. Not a silver bullet but in conjunction with an all renewable energy global infrastructure, ocean fertilisation by buoyant flakes offers the prospect of eventually reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations back to close to preindustrial levels. The added benefits of increased albedo holds out the prospect of containing Arctic warming in the short term while at the same time restoring ocean biomass and creating vast sustainable fisheries. The final win of this win win win proposition would be the stimulation of methane munching microbes.


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